Integers and Decimals and Ratios… Oh My! My Math Journey Complete With Reviews.

Many people wonder how exactly homeschoolers tackle math. Well, I’ll answer that for you, at least from my own personal experience. Honestly, it was a bit hard trying to find good ways to learn math and continues to be something that evolves over time. But it’s worth it to learn math well because, as my mom is always telling me, it will just be me sitting there taking my SATs in a couple years; no one will be next to me answering my questions. So here’s how our journey with math went.

First off, when I was almost seven years old and decided brick-and-mortar school wasn’t for me, I began using my first curriculum, an accredited school that delivered all our books and manuals to us. This one used textbooks to teach math. For this curriculum, it was Mom who was sitting by my side, walking me through each page. And that’s where she stayed for many years!

By the time I hit pre-algebra, though, Mom was scratching her head a lot more and saying things like, “I graduated college with honors, you know. Why can’t I remember this?” That was around the same time we changed curriculums to one that offered more online classes. This newer curriculum offered online textbooks, but I still needed someone to walk me through the paces.

That’s when I turned to Dad. My dad is a huge math brain, but I realized right away, he is NOT a teacher. So we started looking elsewhere.

Then we found out about Khan Academy, and the online school I was at told me that I could use that instead of the textbooks. Khan Academy has many years-worth of math available for kids like me and is all online and 100% free. Also, Sal Khan, who narrates the videos that explain how to solve types of problems, is really good at math and that makes the videos helpful. If you can’t solve a question, most of the time they have one or more videos on how to solve questions like it. Also, if you still can’t solve the question, you can get hints (though you won’t get “progress” if you use a hint). And if you already got the question wrong, you can see the hints to see how you would have solved it, or watch a video afterward. In addition, if you answered the question right but are not sure how you exactly got the answer, you can still look at the hints or watch a video on how to solve that type of problem.

But sometimes I’m so confused on how to solve a question that neither their videos nor their hint help. So I needed some kind of back-up plan.

Then we found Mathnasium. It’s a tutoring place where my mom would take me several times a week to build up my math skills. It was okay, but SO crowded with little kids who were often loud and even obnoxious. Most of the teachers were busy with other students, so I usually had to wait to get my questions answered and I sometimes only got one or two of my questions answered in the hour that I was there. I liked the system overall, and think I learned some stuff in the six months I tried it. But I still felt like I wasn’t learning as quickly as I’d like to.

Then my mom found out that our local library offers a free live tutoring service through Brainfuse – just another reason why I LOVE MY LIBRARY!

I tried it out, and it was great, especially for the price. Trouble with that was, it was only open from 2:00 PM to 11:55 PM. For a homeschooler like me, that just didn’t work. I like doing math in the morning. The tutors were good, though–except for one that got the answer wrong. But overall, it was excellent, and if they were available all day, we might have stuck with that.

Eventually we found Yup which is a math live tutoring app, and they are open at all times of the day. Even though it’s costly (at about $800 per year and we had to pay it all at once), I can tell their tutors are very experienced and have never gotten an answer wrong out of about thirty sessions I’ve had so far.

Yup offered us a two-week trial during this time, and for fun, I thought it would be interesting to compare Yup and Brainfuse side by side. Overall, Yup was a bit slower, but Yup broke down the steps more so that I could understand it more. The app was easier to manage, too. With Yup, I take a picture with my iPhone or iPad and send it to the tutor. I can only use Yup on a mobile device that allows apps, though. So that works fine for me. With Brainfuse, I accessed it from my computer and took screenshots and dragged them over to the whiteboard, which was cumbersome for me. Brainfuse also had some tech issues. Both got the same answers, though.

So we have found out what works me. But it’s different for everyone. I will probably switch from Khan Academy and Yup over to something else sometime. So the best lessons I could offer you are to stay flexible, always try new things, and be willing to change.

Advanced Trigonometry, here I come!

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